By Quin Herron
You may have resolved this New Year to learn more Irish tunes. You may have also resolved to learn more tunes by ear. Either way, here’s three resources for learning tunes by ear in this new year.
Slowplayers.org bills itself as “The Best ITM Tune-Learning Tutor.” It has a fine collection of tunes, along with detailed descriptions and histories for many of them. Ever wonder about the origins of “The Boys of Bluehill”? Want to know where “The Carraroe” came from? This is a great place to start. Each tune page includes the sheet music and recordings of the tune at different speeds. Remember: If you can play it slow, you can play it fast.
Of course, after you’ve learned tunes, you’ll want to learn sets. Which tune goes well with “The Leg of the Duck”? What’s the last tune in “The Longford Collector” set? Foinn Seisiun is a four-volume collection of Irish tunes with accompanying CDs. It’s the closest you can get to a Comhaltas session without waiting for Sunday. The sheet music is available on the Comhaltas website, and the accompaniment tracks are also available on Spotify and YouTube (where you can slow down the speed). I am especially fond of this collection because it aspires to collect tunes which would be known at any session.
Finally, the Riley School of Irish Music has .mp3 files of their curriculum going back more than 20 years. Each has at least one slow version along with a faster version. You can go semester by semester and learn a variety of tunes, from jigs and reels to slow airs and hornpipes. Some of these tunes you may not find any place else. If you really want to broaden your repertoire in a fun and accessible format, this is a great place to look.
The world of Irish Traditional Music is vast and often overwhelming. So many tunes, so little time. However, one tune lends itself to another, and is renewed each time it’s played. Here’s hoping your new year will be filled with new tunes.